Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The 50 Music Project: Seventies Fragmentation

XIX. “We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis”

Throughout the seventies, the fragmentation of the rock audience continued, to the point where it was not just enough to dislike a certain artist, you had to publicly insult him/her as well. I remember a classmate in 1975 proclaiming that Elton John was “a disease,” and this was a guy who thought Harry Chapin was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

By the time Elvis died, punk and new wave had begin to hit the airwaves, disco was getting ready to explode, and the fans of all those genres had a unhealthy disrespect, if not hatred, for each other. All of this prompted one of the great and grand statements of the rock era, contained within Lester Bangs’ obituary of Elvis:

“If love is truly going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others’ objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation’s many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis’. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.”

Tupelo Honey, Van Morrison
Rock and Roll, Led Zeppelin
That’s The Way of the World, Earth, Wind & Fire
Mamma Mia, ABBA

Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder’s genius was a fact well established by 1976. But with that year’s Songs in the Key of Life, Wonder outdid even himself, creating a masterwork of such depth and diversity that it outstripped all that had come before it. This song, a tribute to the many African-American stars who had paved the way for Wonder and others, wasn’t even the best thing on it. But it brightened up the radio waves for weeks in early 1977.

Night Moves, Bob Seger

Absolute, pure brilliance. It seems like a small thing, but I’ve always loved the different ways that Seger uses the word “moves” in the song. Up until the very end, there’s no doubt what he means when he sings about “night moves.” And then, in the last, wonderful verse:

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in


Peg, Steely Dan
Rock ‘N Me, Steve Miller Band

Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan

Who knew in 1975 that it would be 22 long years before Dylan would release an album as good as Blood on the Tracks?

Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John

1975 was the year of Elton John, and at the time he was my favorite artist. He scored two hit singles in the Spring, and then in May released Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the first album ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the Fall, he released Rock of the Westies, the second album ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. During all that, a triumphant tour, including a sold-out Dodger Stadium – the first time that had happened since four lads from Liverpool had done it a decade earlier.

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Willie Nelson

The album from which this song is taken, Red Headed Stranger, turned Nelson from the semi-famous Nashville songwriter and performer that he’d been up to that point into the international superstar that he remains today. It is an amazing album; in his Rolling Stone review, Chet Flippo compared it favorably to the Bible.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon
Heroes, David Bowie
American Girl, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Comes A Time, Neil Young
Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits
Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac
Dreams, Fleetwood Mac
Don’t Stop, Fleetwood Mac
Surrender, Cheap Trick
What A Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers
Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel
Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton
Chuck E.’s In Love, Rickie Lee Jones
Move It On Over, George Thorogood
Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar
Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen

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